Regardless of what changes we are trying to make, be it our drinking habits, weight loss, saving for retirement, paying off debt, or anything else, the problem is usually maintaining motivation. That’s because we are usually ambivalent about actually changing and because change usually means trading immediate gratification for deferred rewards.
In my own mind, for example, I always want to have lost the weight, given up the drinking, saved the money, paid the bills, but I don’t want to go through the discomfort that doing so is going to involve. I want the book written, not in process. I want it to be six months or a year from now and have it done.
Of course, it’s quite possible that in six months or a year it still won’t be done, regardless of what “it” is, unless I have a plan and unless I maintain my motivation.
That means I’d better know what actually motivates me, not what’s supposed to. As I say to clients, I didn’t quit smoking 20 years ago because it was good for my health or my finances but because it allowed me to date a better class of women. As long I remembered that I got through the rough patches. I also, from previous experience, knew that the toughest part lasted about 3 days, stayed tough for another couple of weeks, then things mellowed out in a hurry.
So what motivates you to change your drinking habits?
One way to start finding out is to consider the benefits you get from drinking because let’s face it if there were no benefits you wouldn’t be doing it.
What do you get? Relief from anxiety? A nice protective bubble? A passive-aggressive weapon? Feelings of being sophisticated and sexy? Relief from inhibitions? Replication of a familiar ritual?
Figure that out and you have the basis for creating new skills to achieve the same ends or resolve the same conflicts. That done, you can find the motivation you need to see you through the short discomfort until change’s rewards become motivation.
Schedule, schedule, schedule
We assume that you are a bit resistant to scheduling your time – especially your drinking time. More accurately, you are resistant to acknowledging your drinking time and how much you protect that time from interference.
As we have noted, too much unplanned time, whether we drink or not, creates problems for lots of us. As the T-shirt says, “Don’t Blame Me, I Was Left Unsupervised.” But as adults, we are responsible for supervising ourselves – it’s not a job we can leave to others. We also know that we get very resentful and rebellious when others try.
That being the case, we all need to get good at managing ourselves, and our time.
That doesn’t mean we have to be actively engaged every minute of the day. It does mean that we need to decide what we’re doing, whether it’s working, reading, napping, or any of the hundred other possibilities we have open to us on any given day.
We also need to become aware of how often we let drinking become our default activity simply because it’s easy, requires no effort, fills the time, and makes it impossible to do anything else.
A good start is to keep a daily activity diary for a couple of weeks. No, not for a lifetime. Just note how much time you spend doing whatever: sleeping, eating, reading, watching TV, drinking, etc. You’ll be surprised to discover what you actually do as compared to what you think you do.
Change requires awareness and awareness takes some effort – especially when we have practiced being clueless for a lot of years. These days the buzz words are things like “mindfulness,” they used to be “self-aware” and before that, “know thyself.” Whatever words you prefer, change starts with knowledge. And that knowledge is fairly easy to acquire when you stop resisting.
So – how about that schedule? Fill it in with what you do. Then with what you want to do. It’s the map that gets you to where you want to be. You don’t need to grope blindly.